Skin Deep

Do newborns need moisturizer?

Current research suggests that using moisturizer can help prevent your newborn from developing atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. This is especially important in newborns with a family history of eczema.
Current research suggests that using moisturizer can help prevent your newborn from developing atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. This is especially important in newborns with a family history of eczema. File

Current research suggests that using moisturizer can help prevent your newborn from developing atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. This is especially important in newborns with a family history of eczema.

Take a look at what researchers are saying:

Reducing Risk for Atopic Dermatitis

According to two promising studies, parents whose newborns are at a high risk for developing atopic dermatitis could benefit the most from a gentle moisturizing product. Parents who have older children with eczema or other similar skin conditions might want to consider moisturizing their newborn’s skin because atopic dermatitis has a genetic component and runs in families. The use of moisturizer beginning in the newborn stage may prevent development of eczema.

One study, originally published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, looked at 124 newborns who were considered to be at a high risk for atopic dermatitis. A randomized group of those newborns was chosen to use a daily moisturizer. Parents were able to choose from sunflower oil, Cetaphil cream or Aquaphor Healing Ointment. The remaining infants were not treated with moisturizer.

After six months, researchers found that using a moisturizer on newborns reduced the risk of developing eczema by 50 percent, compared to the control group.

Similarly, a second study also published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that infants whose skin was treated daily with a moisturizing product had a 32 percent risk for developing eczema, whereas that risk remained 47 percent for the control group. (In other words, the group treated with moisturizer had 15 percent less eczema than the group that was not treated.)

Does Frequent Bathing Worsen Eczema?

Prolonged water exposure can worsen eczema but this is usually not the culprit. It is more likely that soaps, shampoos, fragrances and not applying moisturizer after bathing are causing dry skin.

Actually, bathing infrequently could make matters worse. When dirt, debris and flaking skin build up on the surface, they can cause itchiness and irritation. Because of this, dermatologists generally suggest that daily bathing is fine, as long as you’re using gentle products and moisturizing frequently. Look for a barrier repair moisturizer like CeraVe, Cetaphil, EpiCeram or my favorite, Zerafite Ultra Rich Body Cream. Natural options include argan or safflower oils, which are high in linoleic acid. Oils and moisturizers should be used at least twice a day and applied every time the baby is bathed while the skin is still damp. Make sure that you pat the skin dry (do not rub) and use only towels that have been washed with a minimal amount of fragrance-free detergent such as Tide Free. Do not use organic detergents as they tend to irritate eczema-prone skin.

Skin care products to avoid if your child or infant suffers from eczema include:

▪ Perfumed body moisturizers.

▪ Johnson’s baby shampoo (it is very drying to the skin).

▪ Alcohol and witch hazel.

▪ Sodium lauryl sulfate in shampoos and body cleansers.

▪ Any cleanser or bubble bath that foams or suds.

▪ Dove Body Wash. There are multiple reports of skin allergy. Use the bar soap instead.

▪ Fragranced laundry detergents.

▪ Dryer sheets.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s risk of developing atopic dermatitis, or you’re struggling to manage your older child’s dry, itchy skin, talk to your pediatrician or dermatologist about the best treatment.

New data that show the “Allergic March” begins with eczema and progresses to food allergies then rhinitis (runny nose) and then asthma. These new studies suggest that daily moisturization of newborns reduces the first step in the process, which may mean that it also decreases the development of food allergies and asthma.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.

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